A visit to Diebold’s Center of Excellence

Putnam: 'It all starts with the drawing, the documentation and discipline'
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Monday, December 17, 2012

ELMSFORD, N.Y.—Everyone’s favorite word at Diebold’s Center of Excellence is “discipline.” The folks at this facility—where all of this national integrator’s jobs are planned and engineered, and where the systems are built and tested—celebrate discipline.

“It’s the only company I know of that effectively uses engineering drawings to drive an entire process … including subcontracting, project management and service,” said Felix Gonzales, Diebold VP strategic initiatives and business development, as we walked through the engineering department.

Gonzales joined Diebold shortly after Tony Byerly took over the reins of the security division this summer.

The mastermind behind those engineering drawings is Daniel Putnam, VP of operations for engineering, CAD. Putnam believes Diebold’s success as an integrator is a byproduct of this Center of Excellence.

“It all starts with the drawing, the documentation and discipline,” he said. He emphasizes that marquee clients like the World Trade Center and a national account with 100 locations get the same treatment.

Those customers get drawings that go through the same process, with a level of engineering and detail that Diebold execs say other integrators do not provide.

“In the integration space, a $1 million job will get this level of drawing, without a doubt,” Gonzales said. “A national account with 100 or even 1,000 locations? Not necessarily.”

I visited on Dec. 12. It’s a 35,000-square-foot facility just north of Manhattan. More than 100 people work there, and 85 percent of them have direct project responsibilities.

There are 25 engineers whose responsibilities are divided into small systems, large systems, pre-sale and post-sale; an IT call center with separate resources for very high-end integrator accounts; a fabrication center; project management, and sales personnel.

The drawings have been fine-tuned to a level where they can be produced for $100 per location. They are organized and cross-referenced in a way that ensures information is shared, milestones are met, and end points are reached throughout the sales and installation cycle.

“We embrace this process rather than struggle with it, which is what the industry does,” Putnam said.

The process helps the customer with compliance requirements—such as HIPAA and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act—it keeps AHJs happy, and it includes important business information that customers can use in other ways.

You see the same kind of discipline in the fabrication center, where all systems are assembled and tested before they leave the facility. Starting with the metal boxes, fabrication workers adding various components from a variety of manufacturers and weave colorful wires in exactly the same pattern in box after box, which are then put into a stack and tested for projects large and small.

“It eliminates variables pre-loading dock instead of post-loading dock,” Putnam said.

Another room is for staging systems. In one corner the SAPS (situational awareness platform software) system for the World Trade Center, looking a little like a Star Wars character, beeps and flashes.

Back in the executive briefing room, which is used for internal Diebold meetings and customer events, Kevin Engelhardt, Diebold VP and general manager, talks about how the Center of Excellence evolved during the past several years as Diebold acquired companies and fine-tuned its “cradle-to-grave” approach to installation.

He talked about the processes leading up to installation and about the benefits of central management of accounts, rather than doing it at the branch level. “If you roll a truck in Dallas and find out that it’s a database issue in Chicago [it’s a waste of time and money],” he said.

Diebold faces the same issues as any other integrator with shrinking margins, but Engelhardt said Diebold’s disciplined approach means “we know what the margins are and we make business decisions based on that knowledge [which often results in the company’s ability to increase margins].”